Tuesday, July 23, 2013


On a high dusty shelf at the Islesford library there is a two-volume set entitled The Life and Correspondence of Henry Ingersoll Bowditch. It was given to the library by Bowditch’s son, Vincent, who was a summer resident from 1894-1928.

Henry Bowditch was a prominent Boston physician and abolitionist. Born in 1808, he was the son of the Salem mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch. While studying medicine in Europe in 1833, Henry attended the funeral of William Wilberforce, the great British abolitionist, at Westminster Abbey, afterwards returning to Boston where he became a disciple of William Lloyd Garrison. In 1854, Bowditch was a founding member of the Boston-Anti-Man-Hunting-League, a secret organization formed in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. His son, Nathaniel, was a First Lieutenant in the First Massachusetts Cavalry, and was killed at Kelley’s Ford, Virginia in March, 1863.

As he came to terms with his eldest son’s death, Henry Bowditch wrote Memorial, the story of Nathaniel’s brief life and subsequent death as a hero/martyr of the Unionist cause. Yesterday, Henry’s great-great grandson Stephen sent me several images from this elegant and privately printed tribute.

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